1932 Packard

Seeing a 1932 Packard 900 Light Eight convertible coupe-roadster is quite a treat these days. Of the 7000 units made that year, only 1250 were made with convertible soft-tops, and it was the one and only year that Packard had produced the Light Eight. Originally priced at around $1700 (approx. $30,000 today), it was the smallest and least expensive Packard convertible on the market in 1932. Also available were the Standard 8, Super 8 and 12. Despite it being smaller than it’s older brethren, it was fitted with the same Standard 8 engine, allowing for a better power to weight ratio and higher fuel economy. It’s 300 cubic inch engine yields a solid 120HP, and the rest of the car is outfitted with a series of original and rather interesting specifications. Thermostically controlled radio shutters, a vacuum operated clutch, and an updraft carburetor (the first year they were produced), to name a few. Before folding in 1958, Packard was a revered automotive manufacturer known the world over for their luxurious and modernly-tuned models, as well as having been a major producer for fighter jet engines during WWII, powering the infamous P-51 Mustang. This Light Eight encapsulates the look and swagger of a long gone era in which style and cutting edge performance was paramount for high end luxury vehicles, and over the years very little has changed about this particular Light Eight. It’s been painted a few times, both with original Packard colors and scheme.

The trunk area provides an additional bench for more passengers.

The one that we had the pleasure of working on was in need of a new convertible top. At not quite a 100 years old, this was actually not the oldest car that we here at Seatco have serviced, nor was it the first top we’ve hand made, but it still proved to be quite the production, nonetheless. Our tech Rory Williamson was allocated for the project. He’s made a few of them before for other vehicles, including one for a 1950 Riley we did not so long ago. Originally donning a coffee-esque colored top, years of being bleached by the sun had faded it somewhere akin to a creamy white. This Light Eight had had it’s top replaced a few times in the past, and while it wasn’t completely shot, the underlying woodwork of the frame assembly that provides support, keeping things taut and flush, was in need of some major attention.¬†Oddly enough, starting from the rear section of the frame assembly moving forward each portion of the bows and crossbars presented a growing spectrum of increasing disparity, as each consecutive section presented heftier and more complex challenges.

With the top disassembled.

The body-bound tack rail would need to be replaced, and as there’s no fabled stockpile for all things Packard lying around anywhere, we’d have to make one ourselves. This needed some imagination, and the solution for which was surprisingly simple by way of modifying one from a 1967 Mustang as to fit the now 86 year old coupe. That proved to be the easiest bit, as time would soon tell.

The middle bows were just barely salvageable, chewed up beyond all recognition from tension keeping staples, nails and age. Mending them partly required an application of wood resin as to fill in their cracked, Martian surface fascia.


…and after.













With the backhalf of the frame repaired, it was time to focus on the front. The B pillars would need to be replicated and replaced, and given their mostly rectangular shape they provided a nice reprieve, albeit a short one. Just some woodwork, staining and a spread of tongue oil later, they came out nicely. However, the frontbow proved to be the maraschino atop this problem sundae, as it too would need to be replaced – but it was, as one might say, dicey.

At about three feet long and boasting a multitude of dimensions to consider, fabricating a replacement ended up being the largest undertaking for this project. This involved laminating three 1″ slabs of red oak together and shaving it all down, negotiating the many turns and none-too-friendly angles necessary to allow the bow to do it’s job properly, and to look just as dainty and complicated as it’s former self. While not visible from the exterior, it is from inside the cab, so we gave it the same staining and oil treatment as the pillars. The final touch was needed for the top latches, as the screws holding them down were either missing or completely unusable. Like everything else on this car they weren’t readily available to purchase. Using a lathe, we made them out of a few 1/4-28″ screws –

The end result.

With all the real hard work out of the way, it was finally time to focus on the actual top. Using the previous one, which was fortunately intact, we had a decent template to draw from. Everything now was smooth sailing.


The Final Product











7 thoughts on “1932 Packard

  1. Krista says:

    Very handsome Packard! Looks like a 1952-1955 R-Type Bentley Continental. buy

    1. Matt Lupton says:

      That it is, yes. It had many admirers while it was being worked on in our shop, ourselves included.

  2. Bob Shvodian says:

    I know the chief technician Rory Williamson , on this detailed project.
    A beautiful restoration project. This auto is only one year younger
    than myself

    1. Matt Lupton says:

      Cool! And thank you for saying so.

  3. Sergio Ochoa says:

    Have one Packard as yours 1932 Light eight roadster convertible. Doing total restoration frame off. Looking for the slot head (flat head) screws for the wood in different sizes. As well as many other bolts nuts. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Best regards

    1. Matt Lupton says:

      Hi there Sergio. We actually had to fabricate those, using a lathe machine. We had researched vendors for them, and a few other , but apparently nothing is readily available online, or otherwise. Your best bet is to make them yourself, just as we did. Let us know how your project goes!

      Matt Lupton

  4. Lee Jacobsen says:

    Hi Sergio and Matt,

    Nice Packard. I also am restoring one, working on the top right now….any idea where patterns can be found?

    Surprised that stainless flatheads, or slightly oval flatheads , were not readily available. Hershey usually has a few vendors that sell them, also Restoration Supply in CA. Most of what I used were actually threaded, going into threaded inserts as it is much more ‘secure’ in the long run.

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